Top Chef: Kentucky season 16, episode 5 recap: Restaurant Wars Part 2


Restaurant Wars is the biggest challenge of Top Chef. This week Top Chef: Kentucky upped the stakes, adding a third team with the early restaurant wars, and eliminating two contestants at the end of the episode.

Top Chef is known for being a ruthless cooking competition, perhaps the most intense on television. Top Chef: Kentucky needed some spice.

Chef Tom Collichio has continually said the level of food this season was great. That’s awesome for those eating, but the at-home audience needed to smell blood in the water to spice up the season.

Usually, Restaurant Wars is two teams, with one contestant going home. This year, with the surprise early wars, two chefs will depart. Finally, though, the suspense was injected directly into the whole episode.

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North East was described as ‘comfortable’ with the spaced-out front-of-house. The service seemingly went the smoothest, and the stress levels shown were never above slightly rushed.

Adrienne was tasked with not only doing the most cooking but also expediting and trying to interpret tickets coming in from servers. As executive chef, she bossed the kitchen and kept communication flowing through herself.

Other kitchens failed to channel communication precisely and had three chefs on three plans. Adrienne and the North East experience had one voice.

Brian ran the front-of-house, so others were responsible for serving the Chicken Ballentine. His preparation with the chicken skin and the teamwork paid off, as the Ballentine was the runaway winner of the night. Eric’s scallop and pork duo looked wonderful, as it should since it was so time and detail intensive.

Brian’s serving manual and Chicken Ballentine dish carried him to the win. The attention to detail and calm while in the storm of service earned him the huge win. Eddie remained in shock even when Padma announced that the whole team had won. Eric was ecstatic, proclaiming joyously “baby just got new shoes!”

And that ended the smiling, celebratory portion of the show. The chopping block for Top Chef Restaurant Wars is already the most contentious. Instead of one contestant defending against another, this would seem like a battle royal. At least that was the expectation felt immediately after the winning team was dismissed.

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Thistle dealt with some ticket confusion and a menu that lack complementing dishes. Brandon Michelle Pablo Sara

Sara introduced the concepts for far too long. The love for vegetables was not being conveyed. Instead, the table greeting left Padma on the brink of falling asleep.

Food is being served without the chefs tasting the dishes. Michelle was the executive chef, which means she is responsible for the dishes coming out of the kitchen. She tasted components, but that does not cut the mustard in restaurant wars.

While some dishes are satisfying, several are labeled by the judge’s table as ‘dishes in progress’ and the mess should be avoided by customers.

Pablo is sending out too much thistle, as some attention to detail is a causality while in the weeds. Pablo is taking the brunt of service, but he did sign up to cook two dishes. Michelle on a saute pan would have been a good strategy since she had immunity. At least she took the grenade for the flavors not fitting together. That would not save everyone the judges quickly noted.

Third Coast had some of the same problems, only caused from a different end. The back-of-house not fitting together held back Thistle, while Third Coast had the front-of-house confusion bottleneck the quality coming from the kitchen.

Nini won the last two weeks leading into Top Chef Restaurant Wars. Her spotlight this week was as the scapegoat of the poor service. The servers were not trained, and the food was going in and out, sometimes to the wrong tables.

In essence, Nini shined the first few weeks but was invisible up front this week. When questioned she was unsure of stocked alcohol and had terrible dessert planning. Her submission to the judges this week was a submission to the hold of the competition.

The judges notice that both pastry chefs, Kelsey and Nini, handled the dessert course. Nini let the front-of-house run her, going by the editing, and let Kelsey make decisions over the service of Nini’s course.

She was worried that without the main component, the ice cream, she will be screaming while packing her knives to leave. She could only control the front-of-house, and it was stated several times she failed to do so.

The staggered plating of courses and patrons piling at the host stand leaves the judges wondering if everything was prepared and ready for service on both sides of the service wall. A team effort was needed on more than just the Snapper Pontchartrain dish. A team effort on one dish can become the lifeboat, but that usually only can save one contestant.

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In the end, Pablo bit off more than he could chew while Nini left too much of her fate to chance. Pablo spread his bets over two dishes, while Nini barely had one. Both had to pack up their knives and head out the door.